Anyone who knows any amount of Spanish knows that the language is very gendered. Even plural pronouns like “they” are “ellos” and “ellas,” depending on the gender of a group. If someone speaking Spanish wished to be
referred to with they/them pronouns, it would be very difficult not to have them be gendered without creating a whole new word.
And in fact, there is a relatively new word for Hispanic people (especially those in North America)—LatinX. But so far it has received mixed responses.
Regardless of where you fall on the issue, rational discussion is the best way forward...
Examining the variety of reactions seems particularly timely given that it is currently Hispanic Heritage Month, a 30-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 dedicated to celebrating
Hispanic Americans and their contributions to our nation. At the month’s inception it was only the length of a week, but President Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988 to last 30 days.
The use of “X” in the language surrounding Hispanic people has a long history. Although no one is exactly sure when the letter was first used, some suggest that Ana Castillo, a proponent of “Chicana feminism” (a movement
challenging stereotypes of American-born Hispanic women), using “Xicanisma” as a more inclusive term in 1975, was the first instance of mainstream usage of the letter “X” to refer to Hispanic people.
The more well-known usage of “X” however, was its addition to “Latin” in 2014—LatinX—to include non-conforming genders in the language.
Among the Hispanic members of the Bellarmine community, opinions on the term differ broadly. Some consider it to be a good addition, that helps include those who don’t fall under the traditional “Latino” (male) or “Latina”
(female) groups. One student said: “I think it’s cool that people are moving towards being gender inclusive.” Others believe the term is more “academic” and doesn’t really resonate with the majority of Hispanics.
In fact, several people claim they had no knowledge of the term until they attended college. A sophomore said: “I’d never heard of it before coming to Bellarmine, and I grew up in a mostly Hispanic area.” Not to mention that it isn’t
even widely accepted in most Latin American countries. Some people use “Latin@” or “Latine.” A third group is indifferent to the term. They consider it to be useful in some cases but not all, and for the most part, not particularly
A large point of confusion is whether the term is meant to be all-inclusive, or if it is meant only for the LGBTQ+ community. The term is quite new and has been used in both possible forms multiple times, so there isn’t a precedent. And
its use can be seen as presumptuous, if someone doesn’t consider it a term that it applies to them.
For example, under the latter usage rule, trans individuals would have “LatinX” applied to them. However, many prefer “Latina” or “Latino.” On the flip side, if "LatinX” is all-inclusive, then that would mean
that it can be used regardless of a person's gender.
Hispanic members of the Bellarmine community seem to lean toward simply using “Hispanic,” thus dodging the whole controversy altogether. One suggested using “Latin@,” since the @ symbol includes both “o” and
“a,” thus including both genders.
Regardless of where you fall on the issue, rational discussion is the best way forward (as with most issues). In the meantime, you can follow the majority and stick with “Hispanic”—or even better, just ask the person you are addressing
what term they prefer.
By Bilal Qazi